Making the Safety-First Choice—Best Virtual Credit Card Providers Reviewed

Jocelyn Hu, Marketing
Jun 14, 2023
 • 
10
 Min Read

The use of virtual cards has risen exponentially in the past few years, with the market size potentially hitting $37.5 billion by 2028. While virtual cards (and other contactless payment methods) grew significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, the main reason behind their continued popularity is the protection they provide against card cloning, identity theft, and fraud—not to mention convenience.

Finding the best virtual credit card providers depends on your personal financial needs. There are many options on the market, but not all of them offer the same level of service, security, and features. In this guide, we will cover the criteria for choosing a virtual card provider and evaluate some of the best ones to help you make an informed decision.

Best Virtual Debit or Credit Card Providers—What To Look For

Virtual credit and debit cards have the same purpose, which is to protect your real card or bank information when completing transactions. 

A virtual card is a digitally generated card number with an expiration date and security code. In some cases, transactions are sent through a secure tokenization process, which involves replacing actual card credentials with automatically generated values. The requested funds are drawn from your debit card or bank account without disclosing the real credentials to the merchant, providing a private and safe transaction.

When choosing a virtual card service provider, there are three main criteria to consider:

Criteria Explanation
Features and ease of use A virtual card provider should allow you to:
1) Select cards to be used at specific merchants, making it easier to monitor recurring transactions and subscriptions
2) Generate single-use cards for added security when buying on suspicious websites and for protection in case of potential breaches
3) Create, pause, or close the cards quickly and easily, giving you more control of who can charge you and when
4) Set spending limits, enabling you to easily track and monitor budgets
Security Since the vendor typically draws funds from your actual bank account or debit card, the virtual card provider should implement strong security features, such as two-factor authentication (2FA), advanced encryption protocols, and firewalls
Pricing You should choose a provider that offers comprehensive features, advanced security, and increased spending control that meets your needs and budget

Another aspect to consider is the reputation and reliability of the virtual card provider—remember to check out the customer reviews to confirm the trustworthiness and efficiency of a particular service.

A back shot of a woman making a purchase on a tablet while holding a payment card

Source: Marcial Comeron

Best Virtual Card Service for You—Explore the Top 3 Solutions

The following three virtual card providers are a few reliable options on the market according to the criteria provided above. Take a look at the summary of their services, followed by a concise review of each provider:

Provider Standout Feature Free Tier Available?
Revolut Single- and multi-use cards that work globally[2] No
Capital One Virtual cards generated to mask Capital One credit card numbers Yes (there may be industry-standard fees for international transactions)
Privacy Merchant-Locked and Single-Use cards with robust security and spend control features Yes (there may be industry-standard fees for international transactions)

The information in the reviews is current as of June 2023.

Revolut—A Global Virtual Card Service

Revolut is a U.K.-based neobank and fintech company offering Mastercard® virtual cards to its users. Users can pay with the card internationally and also opt to be billed in 150+ local currencies[1]. The service can be accessed by opening an app-based account.

Features and Ease of Use

Revolut virtual cards can be used for online or in-store payments, provided the stores support contactless payments. The cards can be added to digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay for payments at physical locations. 

Revolut users can order up to five active virtual cards[2] in their personal or business account at a time. The service comes with features such as:

  • Creating disposable cards[1]
  • Setting spending limits[1]
  • Freezing cards[1] (useful for declining unwanted payments)

Know that Revolut currently allows funding through direct bank transfers or debit and prepaid cards[3]. Credit card top-ups, where users can add more money to their balance to cover future payments, were discontinued after 8th July 2022.

Security

Revolut uses multiple security measures to keep their customers’ funds safe, including:

  • Keeping the money in regulated banks[4]
  • Reviewing and flagging suspicious payments[5]
  • Asking for additional PIN or biometrics verification in case of suspicious activity[5]
A close-up shot of a person using their smartwatch to make a contactless payment

Source: Ivan Samkov

Pricing

Revolut offers one virtual card for free and then charges $4.99 for every additional card[6]. The platform may charge a fee of up to 3% of the transaction value[6].

Check out the pros and cons of Revolut:

Pros Cons
-Fast app-based interface
-Spending limits enabled
-Global usage supported
-Multiple safety measures
-Only one virtual card available for free 
-Credit card top-ups discontinued

Capital One—Virtual Credit Cards With Merchant-Locking Feature

Capital One offers virtual card service to its customers through the Eno® browser extension or Capital One app, both designed to help facilitate secure online transactions[7].

Features and Ease of Use

Capital One virtual credit card numbers are available to users with eligible credit cards from the issuer[8]. To generate virtual card numbers, the user must install the Capital One app or Eno browser extension, verify their identity, and register their credit card[9]. Once registered, Eno will use the card as a funding source for all the purchases made with virtual card numbers[8].

A Capital One virtual card can be locked to a specific merchant[8], which means it can be used at one specific vendor and nowhere else. The merchant-locking feature minimizes the chances of the card being misused by a potential hacker. Users can set up virtual cards for as many merchants as they like, but no more than 20 per day[8].

In terms of functionality, the Eno browser extension offers multiple features for using and managing virtual cards, such as:

  • Saving existing virtual card numbers[8]
  • Locking or deleting existing virtual cards[8]
  • Viewing all active virtual cards in one place[10]

A potential drawback of Capital One virtual cards is that users have no option to set spending limits[8]. The maximum purchase amount is the credit limit of the associated credit card. On the bright side, users can earn cashback and points on their virtual cards depending on their credit card’s reward system[8].

Security

Capital One users can enable notifications every time their credit card account is used, which includes notifications about the virtual card activity. The issuer also sends fraud alerts for suspicious transactions[8].

An unrecognizable man on a street looking at his smartphone while holding a credit card

Source: Anete Lusina

The Eno browser extension’s “Express Checkout” setting allows users to control the speed and security of their checkouts[8]. When toggled on, the extension allows users to instantly see all their virtual card numbers in one place. When the setting is disabled, the users are required to manually sign in before they can create a new virtual card via the Eno extension. In this case, the extension logs the users out after 20 minutes of inactivity to prevent unauthorized use.

Pricing

Users don’t have to pay additional fees to use Capital One virtual cards, but their credit card will typically have an annual membership fee or similar. The annual fee can be up to $395[11], although certain options (like student credit cards) have no such fee.

Here are the pros and cons of Capital One virtual cards:

Pros Cons
-Merchant-locking feature
-No extra pricing for virtual cards
-Card deleting and locking features
-Multi-functional Eno browser extension
-No customizable spending limits
-Only available to Capital One customers

Privacy—Secure Virtual Cards With Convenient Control Features

Privacy offers an instantaneous virtual card service with a focus on user convenience and safety. The BBB®-accredited company has been featured in Forbes’ list of the top 100 most consumer-centric companies of 2022.

Privacy Virtual Cards are either Visa® or Mastercard® and can be used at most vendors that accept U.S. credit or debit card payments

Features and Ease of Use

Privacy offers Merchant-Locked and Single-Use Cards that enhance the security aspect of virtual cards. 

Privacy’s Merchant-Locked cards facilitate:

In the unfortunate case of a data breach on the merchant’s website, the merchant-locking feature ensures your virtual card number cannot be used elsewhere.

Privacy also offers Single-Use Cards that close after each transaction. They are convenient for shopping on websites you haven't used before or have security concerns about. These cards automatically close as soon as the first transaction goes through. In case a data breach happens and your card number is stolen, potential hackers won’t be able to use it afterwards.

A close-up shot of a person holding an iPhone over a laptop and a smartwatch

Source: cottonbro studio

Privacy provides a host of features to enhance the user experience and provide greater financial control. Check out some of the benefits of Privacy:

  • Browser extensions for fast and easy checkout—Privacy has introduced browser extensions for Google Chrome and Firefox to make your online shopping quick and easy. The free add-ons make checkout faster by auto-filling secure card numbers directly into the designated fields, so you don’t need to search for your wallet or memorize card numbers.
  • Spending limits—You can set spending limits for each card you create, enabling you to keep your expenses under control. For example, if a streaming service is $5/month, you can set a card limit to $5. In case the merchant accidentally double charges you or attempts to sneak an overcharge, the virtual card will automatically decline the transaction.
  • Easy card management—All your Privacy Cards can be closed, paused, or unpaused with a single click. The pausing/unpausing option is especially useful in case of unwanted subscriptions as the merchant won't be able to charge you without access to your bank account. Note that you should still reach out to the merchant to cancel your subscription.
  • Full-featured mobile apps—Privacy users can access their accounts via any browser or an Android/iOS app. The mobile app enables seamless card generation and management wherever you are.

Privacy Accounts are linked to the user’s debit card or bank account. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Sign up for a Privacy account
  2. Provide the mandated know your customer (KYC) and funding details
  3. Request and start creating Privacy Cards

Security

Privacy is transparent about its security standards and compliance requirements. Like banks, Privacy has to adhere to Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance. To be PCI compliant Privacy is required to:

  • Install and maintain a firewall configuration
  • Use encryption while transmitting data
  • Protect stored cardholder data
  • Regularly test and monitor systems

Privacy also goes through SOC 2 Type II compliance audits to establish the integrity of its information security controls. The platform has additional security measures for virtual cards and keeps a robust internal fraud detection system.

Privacy mobile app users get real-time notifications on account activities. Other security features include:

  • Two-factor authentication (2FA) 
  • Time-based one-time password (TOTP)

Pricing

Privacy offers multiple plans. The Personal plan is free for domestic transactions and currently allows users to create up to 12 new virtual cards every month. The paid plans start at $10/month and offer benefits like cashback and additional card creates to meet your needs.

Here are the pros and cons of Privacy:

Pros Cons
-Base plan is free for domestic transactions
-Customizable spend limits
-Browser extensions for fast checkouts
-Real-time notifications on mobile apps
-Easy card closing or pausing
-1Password integration
-Advanced security measures
-No option to link credit cards
-Limited to U.S. residents

References

[1] Revolut. https://www.revolut.com/en-US/cards/, sourced May 2023
[2] Revolut Contributor. https://blog.revolut.com/a/virtual-card/, July 5, 2020
[3] Ascen. https://capturetheatlas.com/revolut-card/, November 7, 2022
[4] Revolut. https://www.revolut.com/how-we-keep-your-money-safe/, sourced May 2023
[5] Revolut. https://www.revolut.com/security/, sourced May 2023
[6] Revolut. https://www.revolut.com/en-US/legal/standard-fees/, sourced May 2023
[7] Capital One. https://www.capitalone.com/learn-grow/money-management/virtual-cards-shopping-online/, June 23, 2022
[8] Capital One. https://www.capitalone.com/digital/eno/virtual-card-numbers/help/, sourced June 2023
[9] Capital One. https://www.capitalone.com/digital/eno/virtual-card-numbers/setup/, sourced June 2023
[10] Capital One. https://www.capitalone.com/digital/eno/virtual-card-numbers/, sourced June 2023
[11] Capital One. https://www.capitalone.com/credit-cards/compare/, sourced June 2023
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